Reader dilemma: My husband and I want to move away and run our own business, but it means leaving our 18-year-old son

"We talk of children flying the nest. Parents aren’t meant to fly. They stick around creating a secure background for their children to come home to until they’re old enough to cope on their own."

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Dear Virginia,

My husband and I have been working hard all our lives and, now that we’re both nearing 50, we want to have something of our own and work for ourselves. My husband found a café in a resort in Wales and is keen to buy it. I’m not so sure as it means leaving our
18-year-old son on his own in Kent. He’s in the middle of his studies and has few friends. My husband insists that our son will have to stand on his own two feet. But I’m concerned. Having lived in a town all my life, I’m also worried about living in the country by the sea.

Yours sincerely,

Liz

Virginia says

Why on earth should your son have to stand on his own two feet at this age? Did your husband’s parents abandon him very young? Does he think that this cruel move will “make a man of him”? If so, let me assure him it will do precisely the opposite. Your son is not socially skilled and being abandoned by his parents, having always lived at home, will drive him to suicidal thoughts or drink and drugs or some crazy computer addiction which he’ll find hard to give up.

What do you think you’re doing? Don’t you know that when children reach adulthood it’s they who leave home, not the adults? We talk of children flying the nest. Parents aren’t meant to fly. They stick around creating a secure background for their children to come home to until they’re old enough to cope entirely on their own.

Only the other day, the Children’s Commissioner for England said that ideally, vulnerable children – and your son sounds rather immature – need to be able to be supported in care well after they’ve reached 18 – probably until 21 – with support available until they’re 26.

It’s true that there are children around the world who have full-time jobs at five years old. But this is the UK and, on the whole, children become independent at a later and later age, many of them these days living at home until at least 25.

You’ve spent 18 years bringing your son up and caring for him. How can you, with only a few more years to finish off the job, suddenly decide that he virtually doesn’t exist and go off to do your own thing?

And what a crazy “own thing” it is, too. A café in a Welsh beach resort? Most communities are quite wary of newcomers, and resorts are absolutely bursting with cafés. It’ll only work – if it does work – in the summer season and the rest of the year you’ll be staring at the huge grey waves, freezing cold, and wondering what your poor son is up to. As for work, you’ll be slaving away probably 14 hours a day, seven days a week, just to break even.

I’d see if you could try out a café for three months – there must be some owners who’d be glad of a break – and be sure it’s nearer home. And then decide whether you want to spend the rest of your life making tea and putting up with tourists, not always the politest of species, for six months of the year.

If your husband’s determined, OK, he can go away and run a café. But not you. Keep your son with you until he’s ready to leave of his own accord. He would never, ever forgive you if you didn’t. And I doubt if you’d be able to forgive yourself, either.

Readers say...

Take a practical look at this

Don’t do it Liz! Being on holiday somewhere is not the same as moving there to live. Why on earth would you leave your friends, your family, and all the conveniences of town life? You are only going to get older: what if your husband dies of a heart attack or develops a long-term illness? Do you want to live in Wales on your own? This is not doom-mongering, it’s practical. Men often rely less on a friendship network than their wives do.

I’ll never forget overhearing a conversation between two women in their 50s, who were clearly old friends, one of whom had moved to Spain. Her husband played golf all day, and I can’t tell you how sad she sounded as she told her friend she wished they still had a property in this country.

If you want a challenge, travel for a year then open a café in Kent! At least your son can come in and buy a cup of tea.

Helen, from Dorchester

by email

Now is not the time

Parenthood is a commitment that involves many sacrifices, and so most parents have to forego their private dreams for the sake of their children. The dream of a business means a lot to your husband, but he is being a little hasty. Your son will leave for university soon, and then you will be free to move. It may not be this Welsh café that you buy, but there will be other businesses in similar places.

Your relationship with your son is more important than a private dream. Furthermore, both of you must fully buy into the dream for it to make you happy, and it seems that at least one of you is unsure. Now is not the time. Be patient.

Francis Beswick

by email

Go ahead and buy the café

When I was 18 my parents had the same dilemma as you now have. The solution was that I lived in digs from Monday to Friday and came home at weekends. My mother still did my washing and ironing when I was at home; I didn’t suffer any hardship.

So buy the café in Wales; if it falls through the net, you will likely forever blame your son for the missed opportunity.

Malcolm Howard

by email

Speak to your son

Have you spoken to your son about this? You never know, he might want to join you once his studies are out of the way.

Terese Bakker 

by email

Next week's dilemma

I’m a 51-year-old man with a loving wife and four lovely children and I’m addicted to pornography. I have everything I need – money, love, affection, health, sex and happiness. Except now and again I log on to various websites and spend a couple of hours locked in my guilty secret. It is rough stuff, though I’ve never viewed anything involving children.

Afterwards I feel total shame and self-loathing. My family have no idea about this as I’m very careful. I am terrified of being found out as all hell would break loose.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew

What would you advise Andrew to do? To answer this dilemma, or to share your own problem, write to dilemmas@independent.co.uk

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